Editorial |

A Failed Test for Israel's Health System

Haaretz Editorial
Israeli doctors in a coronavirus ward at a hospital in Hadera in July.
Israeli doctors in a coronavirus ward at a hospital in Hadera in July.Credit: Amir Levy
Haaretz Editorial

About two months ago the licensing examination was held for graduates of foreign medical schools. The licensing exam is the most important filter for new physicians entering the health system. It is held twice a year, for about 1,500 people each time; only after passing the exam may graduates apply for an internship, the last stage of medical studies in Israel.

Shortly after the 1,644 applicants were tested, however, it came to light that 13 of them were caught cheating during the exam and that a significant part of the test was leaked in advance, allegedly to hundreds of applicants.

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After a detective agency determined the scope of the leak, the Israel Medical Association and the Health Ministry decided to re-administer the internal-medicine portion of the exam, its largest section as reported by Ronny Linder in Haaretz's Hebrew edition on Thursday.

The decision has harsh implications for all students who took the exam, not only for those who cheated: They are unable to continue along their career path and don’t know their grades on the other portions of the test.

All Israelis, in fact, will be affected by the affair. At the height of the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, when there is an urgent need for medical personnel, postponing the exam to an unknown date will delay the internships of about 600 medical school graduates. Graduates of foreign medical schools account for more than half of all new doctors in Israel and 80 percent of new doctors outside of central Israel.

Some questions remain unanswered, such as the steps being taken to discover the source of the leak, which was presumably inside the system. Was this a one-off, or simply the only such leak that was discovered?

But one question is particularly critical: In light of the Health Ministry’s just argument, according to which “A license to practice medicine should be granted only to those we are sure have passed the licensing exam honestly,” what measures are being taken to guarantee the veracity of an exam whose purpose is to maintain the level of medicine in Israel?

In the past there was talk of adding an oral exam, in which cheating is impossible, but this important proposal was not advanced. For now, it appears that the leakers have the upper hand.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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